Friday, September 16, 2011

Phone Conversations

It’s that time of year where DinoMights begins preparing for another season of hockey. In and amongst the chaos of organizing equipment, recruiting volunteers, and making the season schedule we try and call a handful of our kids to and see how their school year has started.

The calls don’t typically last long and consist mostly of the kids answering the following questions with one word responses: “How is school going?” “Do you like your teacher?” “What is your favorite subject right now?”

One phone call, however, turned into a phone call beyond just checking in.

On occasion we have students in DinoMights going to schools that are not the appropriate learning environment for them. We have one kid, in particular, that Scott and Eric worked with last year to help him find a more suitable high school that will help him be more successful with his education. So as Scott got on the phone and found out that he was not going to the school they helped him transfer to, I got to hear Scott’s half of the conversation. It’s conversations like these that make me proud to be a part of DinoMights.

Scott was angry and disappointed. It was an anger and disappointment, though, that came out of a genuine love for the kid. There was a clear passion in his voice that could only exist out of a deep sense of care for him. As Scott questioned him about his current situation, why he wasn’t going to the other school, and if he’d prefer to transfer, the DinoMight insisted that he will be able to succeed at the school he is at instead of transferring. At one point in the conversation I heard Scott say, “I will not sit back and watch you fall through the cracks. I am here for you, and I do believe you can succeed, so if this school is not helping you succeed I WILL intervene."

When Minneapolis has a 4year graduation rate of 49%, these issues become serious. DinoMights acknowledges the statistics, but we see our kids individually. They aren’t just statistics to us, we don’t just want them to “beat” the statistics. We want our kids to grow into adults and have the opportunities to be what they want to be “when they grow up.” We want our kids to make dreams for their lives and see that they are possible to achieve. We want our kids to know that they have choices. Choices to succeed, choices to learn, choices to become who they are.

In the words of E.E. Cummings, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” We want to help them gain that courage and support them in their journey. Scott’s conversation was an example of that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vlog 5!!

Here is the link for the 5th video blog! Dinos went to camp :)

Welcome Jensine!

Hello! I’m a new face around here and I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Jensine Pulford and I am here as one of the new program assistants. I have just recently returned to Minneapolis after having spent the last five years teaching abroad in both Guatemala and Jalisco, Mexico. It was a difficult decision to move back, but it has been so much fun getting to know this awesome city all over again. I had forgotten how much I appreciate its unique and beautiful mix of people and culture. And, it is home of the DinoMights!!! I am excited to be here and I am thankful for this brilliant opportunity to be blessed by and to serve with the Dinos! I look forward to meet and build relationships with the Dino community, to be apart of its growth and to see the many ways it will grow me as well. Blessings to you,


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trike-A-Thon Video!

Here is the link to the youtube video for the trike race for those of you who have been eager to see it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making Friends

Last week was DinoMights’ annual Power Camp, our week long academic camp focusing on nutrition. Personally, I find this week incredibly stressful and I will openly admit that I am far greater at playing games and being active with kids than sitting them down and having them read and write and listen. For this, I admire all teachers out there. However, though stressful, there were moments this week that were encouraging and uplifting. One story, in particular, I am eager to share with you all.

Giselle is one of our middle school girls. She joined DinoMights last year as a Polar. Her mom would drive her and her brother to and from practice so her interactions with other fellow DinoMights and coaches were at the ice rink. Every early Wednesday morning I would find her standing next to her mom and I would say, “Good morning Giselle! How are you?” Her answer was often mouthing, “Good.” There may have been noise that came out, but not audible to the human ear. See, Giselle is painstakingly shy. One time I was in her elementary school with Eric and saw her helping out her teacher and I yelled, “Hey Giselle!!” She looked at me with a blank face. I was almost worried I had the wrong girl and asked Eric, “That is Giselle, right??” It was, and I’m sure some people can relate to that level of shyness. So you can imagine how difficult it may be for her to make friends when saying “hello” and “good” are difficult.
So throughout the season we were all waiting to see which group of friends she would find her niche with. But it never really happened...until this week. This week I noticed after being teamed up with two other girls for camp, Guadalupe and Jennifer, that she began sitting with them before we started camp and at the gathering time when we ended. On the last day we went to a water park. Jennifer and Guadalupe were girls I coached last year, so they often came up with Giselle to chat with me… and believe it or not… Giselle was the most chatty. From not really knowing what her voice sounded like to having my ear talked off (GLADLY!) was more than a huge step. And right as we were leaving for the day Guadalupe put her arm around Giselle and told me, “I’m bringing Giselle to the water park on Sunday.”
Giselle found her niche. She found her voice. She found her comfort here at DinoMights. These are the stories we cherish. We aim for Social Excellence by fostering a safe environment to make friends. This is one of those success stories.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


So that was quick, I know but here is the link to our 2nd Video Blog highlighting our day at the NHL clinic. It was kind of a big deal...

Introduction to DinoMight VIDEO Blogs

Here is the YouTube link for the very first VIDEO blog. Keep your eyes out for more to come in the near future! Yay Dinos!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NHL Draft Youth Clinic

Today we were special guests at the NHL Draft ADM Clinic. Here are pictures of our interactions with Cal Clutterbuck and Brad Staubitz of the MN Wild, autographs, and smiles. Don't miss Coach Erin in a really blogable moment below!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Carroll at Greg Carroll Learn 2 Skate

Sometimes stuff happens in real life that is every bit as amazing as stuff that is made up.

Almost 4 years ago a tragedy occurred that now shapes our community here at DinoMights. Long time mites coach Greg Carroll passed away unexpectedly one morning. It was very sad for so many young DinoMights he had coached.

We officially named Learn 2 Skate after Greg to honor his legacy.

Greg's friends and family have been behind Greg Carroll Learn 2 Skate ever since. Some of his High School Classmates even hold a Golf Tournament to support Greg's legacy.

This year we have the most amazing and touching part of the story yet! Greg's brother, Dan, is now a DinoMights volunteer. He spent time tutoring a 2nd grader this winter and then became a lead coach at Greg Carroll Learn 2 Skate.

It was amazing to me to see how special it was to Dan to be a part of this effort in a very personal way. I can't step in his shoes and know what it was like for him to serve at the event named for his brother, but I am certain that it is part of that amazing web that God weaves to bring about things that give us pause to wonder.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thanks To Learn 2 Skate Volunteers

On Behalf of the 1st Grade Students at Green Central and Andersen Schools and the DinoMights staff . . .

Thank you for volunteering at Greg Carroll Learn 2 Skate.

You held us up . . .

Gave us something on which to lean . . .

Offered expert advice . . .

And became . . .

Our Friends!

Because of you we know we can do big things!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thanks For Supporting Camp Scholarships!

As of 5/12/11 Camp Funds are up to $1955!

Dear Friends and Family,

Thanks so much for supporting DinoMights my race and efforts to raise camp scholarships! The race was on Saturday and I did indeed have enough donations to wear a full set of hockey equipment. It was cold and a bit rainy, which actually worked in my advantage since the equipment didn't make me hot until mile 5. The hardest thing was actually the shin guards. The breezers were quite comfortable. DinoMights got a lot of good attention on the race course as I explained exactly what I was doing in hockey gear at a road race.

My fundraising effort had 10 donors for a total of $925. I had a partner in this effort that raced in a snowsuit (He was very sweaty by the end). Together we raised $1,605, which can fully scholarship 5+ students to summer camp!

Our fundraiser was definitely fun, but most importantly it may actually change the lives of some urban young people that will have chances to canoe the Boundary Waters, learn about food and nutrition, go to a hockey clinic, ride a horse, swim in a lake, and hear about the great love of Jesus at DinoMights summer camping activities 2011!

Attached is a picture to prove we really did it (notice our race numbers, proving that we aren't just dressed up!). Again thanks so much. Please stay in touch. If you haven't had a chance, but still want to join our effort visit

Monday, May 2, 2011

Are We Crazy?

Are we crazy? Maybe. Maybe we just have faith.

Last spring a few volunteers ran a race to raise camp funds. It was tough, because it was

rainy and cold. However, we actually raised over $3,000 doing that last year. So it was worth it,

and worth doing again this year; but with a semi-crazy twist.

One of the volunteers decided that just running the race wasn’t enough to get people to

give to his cause. So he said that he would add a layer of clothing for every gift to his online fund-

raiser page until he had a full snowsuit on in the race. His page was so popular for raising camp

funds that I decided to use his idea too. I am adding one piece of hockey equipment for every

donor. So far we are about half suited up each, and we’ve raised $700 between the two of us.

In a road race the right clothing is essential. You don’t want items that are bulky or create

uncomfortable friction. I’ve had some friction problems in the past. Trust me, it’s uncomfort-

able. “So why have I agreed to wear a jersey, shoulder pads, elbow pads, helmet, breezers, hockey

socks, and shin guards on a 6.1 mile run,” I think to myself, “Oh and by the way, the forecast is

calling for more rain.” I’m going to run in uncomfortable stuff and it will be raining. Am I crazy?

Why are we doing this?”

This might sound strange, but I think the answer is FAITH. You see summer camp is

really the place where DinoMights participants develop what we refer to in our mission statement

as Spiritual Excellence. For some of them it is the fi rst time they hear that God loves them. It is

a place where they often begin a life long journey of faith.

In some cases the journey of urban life carries a lot of uncertainty. Some of our kids are

forced to move every few months, or change phone numbers. Schools close, parents get laid off,

and the roof leaks, because the landlord won’t fi x it. (In fact, the roof will probably be leaking

during our run this Saturday). Their playground is an expanse of unfeeling cold hard concrete over

which they are dragged without having any control. Their journey’s can really be crazy.

I once heard an urban pastor say, “Faith is all we got in the city.”

Faith is all about seeing with your heart what you can’t see with your eyes. It’s what

makes the future things we’re hoping for real right now. It’s a journey to an unknown destination

that you believe is good, even though you’ve never been there before. That kind of sight and cer-

tainty is not always rational. With the obstacles some of our students face, having faith that their

lives can be anything other than chaos may seem a bit crazy. Isn’t it more likely that our kids will

fail? But faith demands that we refuse to accept that possibility. At DinoMights we hope for our

students to have lives that are not crazy. I’m not saying that we hope God is going to fi x every

leaky roof, but I am saying that we hope for our students to be able to look to God when the roof

is leaking and know that God will guide them through it.

So if taking an urban young person out of the city for a week to play in the lush wood-

lands of Northern Wisconsin or the Boundary Waters will allow them to come home with faith;

with something that won’t change while everything around them is in constant fl ux, then let’s do

it. Together let’s do even crazy things to support that journey of faith!

Please consider a ‘crazy’ donation to support ‘faith’ by sending a special gift for Camp



Shunya and Wayne reading books at

Power Camp

Dino boys outside their cabin at Silver

Birch Ranch, with alumus and counselor,


Friday, April 15, 2011

Success Stories: Levi

"How bad can it get? He is a good reader. He is a smart and creative kid. What is going on? Have we not done enough for him?" These are the thoughts my wife and I had when we learned how poorly Levi was doing in school.

He failed at least half of his classes in a traditional high school. He was falling through the cracks and getting left behind. He failed Social Studies, math repeatedly, he even failed gym! What's worse is that it seemed like nobody noticed or cared. Nevermind that he failed first semester math, he was just automatically enrolled in second semester math. I don't know about you, but it seems pretty obvious that if you can't succeed in the first sem math you also will be unable to succeed in the second sem math.

Everyone we talked to at the school said, "Oh yeah, great kid. Never causes any problems. Doesn't do his work though."

We pressed him, invited him over to do homework, called him to remind him to do homework.

So we pressed the school, demanded that teachers communicate with us, demanded conferences with school staff.


So we pressed his parents. "He is not showing you any reason to believe that he will be successful at this school. He is going to be 21 year old before he graduates at this pace, and you will still be supporting him financially if there is not a change immediately," we argued.

"O.K. I'll do my work," Levi protested, "Just don't make me switch schools."

"It's too late for that. At this point even if you passed every class from here on out you will graduate 2 years late. Moreover, if you keep going the way you are you will complete 4 years of high school in 8 years."

Finally the parents understood. They made him switch into a charter school. The school is strong on Spanish language and Latino culture. It is also especially strong on the arts. It is a perfect fit.

Kari and I had to back off a bit when he made the change. He'd had enough of us hounding him to live up to his potential, and we could tell. We didn't know if we had done enough for him, but we had done all we could do.

He didn't immediately like it at his new school, which worried us a bit. However, reading between the lines we liked what we were hearing. "I hate it there," he'd say. "I don't talk to anyone, I just do my work. That's it." His tone was resentful.

"Good. That is what you are supposed to do."

"Those kids are uncool," he'd say.

"So what? Maybe you need to succeed in school more than you need to have friends at school."

"I'm just going to work hard, catch up then go back to my other school."

We wanted to respond to that with outrage, but the time for outrage had passed. Whatever motivates him at this point is good. Even if it is getting out of his new school. Most likely, we reasoned, once he tastes success, he will love it.

Sure enough, he was chosen to create a mural on the back wall of the school. He became a leader. His talent shone through. The last time I talked to him this is what he said, "I'm taking a college course this summer. Two weeks I get to live on campus and study. Oh and I'm not 100% sure yet, but I think I'm going to graduate on time next year."

That is what we live for at DinoMights. Trust me, it is uncomfortable to be lying in bed at night wondering about if we've done enough. Truthfully, sometimes it doesn't matter. Not every story turns out like this one. But, we know that kids like Levi are worth the sleepless nights, and we joyfully celebrate when they have this kind of success.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Endings

Last night was the last night for the 2010-2011 tutoring season. Many of the kids will now participate in our technology classes. In fact, we may have one of our biggest technology classes ever this year.

The party was tremendous fun. We had pizza, played board games, Mario Kart on the Wii, and the kids got fun prizes.

I went around and asked students to share something they have learned or remember from this year. Below are their quotes.

Eduardo, age 7, "I learned that hockey is cool."

Kevin, age 7, "I learned how to read in English, and I won a car." --When asked what he learned from his tutor.

Alex, age 6, "My favorite memory of hockey is doing the Superman." The "Superman" drill is when students extend their arms and slide on their bellies.

Larry, age 11, "I learned fractions." --When asked what he learned from his tutor.

Rafael, age 13, "Tweet, Tweet, Tweet." --When asked what he wanted to share on Twitter.

Francisco, age 12, "Getting my homework done on time." --When asked how his tutor helped him this year.

Edward, age 10, "I learned from my tutor that you always have to study hard and don't give up."

Sandy, age 16, "It was fabulous. I enjoyed coming every Tuesday and being with the kids." --On what it was like to be a tutor to a second grader this year.

Ericka, age 7, on her favorite book from tutoring, "Green Eggs and Ham in Spanish is Huevos Verdes con Jamon."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Success Stories: Frankie

Yesterday I got to spend some time with Frankie at tutoring.

Frankie is one of those kids you can look at and see that DinoMights is making a difference. He would make a great comic book character. He is a good athlete with natural leadership skills. His talents could be used for either good or evil. And, there is a battle over whether or not his skills will be employed by the dark side or the light (sounds a little like star wars, and also I recall something from the bible about light).

Anyway, a year ago Frankie's tutor couldn't keep tutoring him. So we placed him with Coach Pete as his new tutor. A few weeks later Frankie told Pete that he didn't want him to be his tutor any more. Well, of course the forces of good had to step in and say, "Kids don't get to decide who their tutors are going to be. Your job is to come here and learn. We actually put a lot of thought into your tutor, and think that Pete and you will be great friends." His immediate reaction was to hang his head and mope.

A year later all Frakie talks about is, "Coach Pete this," and "Coach Pete that." Pete is a police officer and occasionally rolls by Frakie's house in his squad car to say, "Hey, you keepin' out of trouble?" And he is keeping out of trouble!

Pete couldn't make it yesterday, so I substitute tutored Frankie. We did some word lists. He's a third grader and got 100% of the fourth grade words correct. Then he got most of the 5th grade words too. I think the forces of good and light are winning in Frankie's life!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Red Van Retirement?

Since the end of the 2011 hockey season, I've had a chance to sit down with a very important member of the DinoMights family. He's been hauling kids around longer than any of us staff members, and really has been through it all with Hockey in the Hood. Our Red Van pauses to reflect on Dino Life, and his coming retirement.

Kids and hockey bags loaded into the Red Van

SH: Red, to say the least you have seen it all. Remind us how long you have been at it here.

RV: Well, I'm a 1996 Red Ford E350 15 Passenger Van. So I've been around since near the beginning of DinoMights. Why, some of the teenagers I drove to practices in the late nineties are in their late twenties now! Most of them have graduated high school and some of them are parents themselves!

SH: Wow, that is really something when you think about it that way. You are still chugging along though.

RV: That is right. In fact just this winter I transported DinoMights PeeWees, the District One Champions! It has been ten years since I chauffered the PeeWee Champs. I even drove them to the Hockey in the Hood Tournament all the way in Detroit, MI. You know, it never gets old.

SH: What never gets old?

RV: Well, what we are doing here at DinoMights never gets old. The smiles on the faces; stories the students tell in the back seat. Actually, inside me is probably one of the most important places for relationships at DinoMights. Also, I feel pretty important. Many parents can't regularly drive their daughters and sons to DinoMights. So without me many students wouldn't even be able to participate. They wouldn't build the relationships or create the stories.

SH: That is a great point. Without transportation we wouldn't be able to serve some of those same students you talked about who have grown up and graduated.

Now you have had a few recent surgeries. How is your health?

RV: Well, let me assure you I am still very safe. All my seat belts are in working order and I recently got new tires. But, the reality is I am getting older and I don't have a garage. At some point I'll have to train in a new van.

SH: Red, you have every driving record known to DinoMights: Most miles, Most Kids, Most hockey bags, Stinkiest hockey bags, etc. You are surely a first ballot hall of famer. Are you saying it is time to hang it up?

RV: Oh, right now the pieces are in place. As long as I can perform at a high level I have one goal, and that is to lead kids to Physical, Academic, Social and Spiritual Excellence. But 2011-2012 is likely to me my last hockey season. I'm not sure though.

SH: Truly you are the Brett Favre of the Dino Van world, and we hope that whoever follows in your footsteps, DinoMights will find a very capable replacement for you.

RV: I'm sure they will, and I'm sure that the community of DinoMights supporters will really get behind the effort! Thanks for giving me a chance to share.

SH: Thank you for your long and important service to DinoMights!

Red Van arriving home from camp

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Meet Erin

Hello DinoMights Followers! My name is Erin and I am a new, eager and excited, intern for DinoMights. I am a senior at the University of Minnesota and will be graduating this spring with a degree in Kinesiology. Majoring in kinesiology has provided a lot of insight for my coaching position during this season and for the DinoMights program in general.

Through my classes I have learned that the lowest represented social group in sports is female minorities (Asian being the least represented, then Latinos, then African Americans). I have also learned that adolescent girls in sports have a significantly better self-image and higher self-efficacy than those who do not play a sport. I was recently assigned to read a study that revealed that females who participated in regular physical activity improved their perceived body image without even changing their Body Mass Index. Just this last week my class discussed an article revealing that kids living in an urban environment are most influenced by peer support, among 8 other variables, to be physically active.

DinoMights addresses all of these issues. This year DinoMights made an effort to recruit more girls and expand the girls program; inviting them into a program that provides opportunities to set goals, be physically active, make friends, and naturally gain a healthier self-image and self-esteem. I was the lucky coach with the majority of these new girls, allowing me a unique opportunity to personally witness what the program means to them.

I witnessed girls go from hardly being able to stand on the ice at the beginning of the season to being able to hockey stop (with a common reaction of: “Erin, LOOK! I can STOP!”). I witnessed a GIRLS hockey team full of DIVERSITY playing on a SPORT team together against other teams with sportsmanship and positive attitudes. I witnessed girls committing to waking up early for practice and being physically active at a time most heads are still on their pillows. I witnessed girls disappointingly counting down the years until they can no longer be in DinoMights (they still have 8-9 years left!). I witnessed my player’s schoolteacher attending a game to videotape and cheer on her student. I witnessed girls beg to be dropped off last after games so they could continue having fun with their teammates and coaches in the van. I witnessed girls consoling their teammate after she was crying from the pain of her toes thawing out after an outside game.

I witnessed laughs, smiles, hugs, and high fives.

I witnessed goals being achieved, friendships being built, and confidence growing.

To these girls DinoMights makes a difference. Perhaps more than it realizes. This, among many other reasons, makes me so thankful to be a part of this program. I simply cannot think of any other organization I would rather be interning for.


Erin Welch

DinoMights Intern